Marrakech – Beautiful Ancient Royal City and Gate to the Sahara

We have just come back from our 5-day trip to Morocco. We arrived at beautiful Rabat on an incredibly cheap £49.00 Ryanair flight at 10pm, after a three-hour flight from London, and took a cab to our riad (a riad is a medieval town house with large interior court that has been converted into a hotel or bed&breakfast, in our view the best type of accommodation in Morocco, unless you want to splash out big on 5-star luxury hotels). We had a quick dinner, then straight to bed. The next morning, we did a bit of sightseeing and were on our four and a half hour train ride to Marrakech by lunch-time. Flying directly into Marrakech would have cost several times as much and we appreciated the opportunity to visit another Moroccan city.

The train ride was comfortable, not overcrowded, and in a western-style modern train with wide seats and a wide aisle. No complaints.

Upon our arrival at Marrakech’s central train station at around 5pm, we took another taxi to our riad in the ancient medina. The taxi dropped us off about half a kilometre’s walk (100m geographic distance, but with no way through) away from the hotel, because the tiny alleyways are even tight for the people on scooters and pedestrians to pass through. We soon realised that the taxi drivers in Marrakech often only know the main roads and places and that our driver had not dropped us off at the closest point, but no hard feelings, we were ready to have a great time in this royal city that for so many centuries has been Morocco’s gateway to the Sahara.

We were warmly greeted at the riad and treated to a lovely cup of sweet mint tea, while the receptionist was getting the rooms ready and taking copies of our passports. After freshening up a bit we explored the medieval part of town and booked our day-trip to the Atlas mountains for the following day over dinner. We quickly realised that we have a thing for Moroccan cuisine. The food during that evening and the following days has never disappointed us. Not only is it very tasty, it also feels extraordinarily healthy, maybe due to the mix of fresh ingredients and all those exotic herbs and spices.

The locals are nearly all very friendly and helpful (even though you should never accept help from strangers out on the streets who actively approach you; best to ask a shop assistant or similar instead). We felt safe at all times and were often pleasantly surprised by locals going out of their way in trying to help us find our way. Different from what we expected, there was hardly any hassling by kids or street vendors that you often hear about from visitors to Morocco.

The day-trip to the Atlas Mountains was a fabulous experience. We spent most of the day sitting in a car, but it was all worth it for the short bits of hiking and the views.

The last two full days of our trip were filled with a two-day Sahara desert trip with Camel Safaries, the absolute highlight of our trip.

After five fascinating days in this completely different culture and the awe-inspiring, wild, beautiful nature of the Atlas mountains and the Sahara desert, we returned to London on another Ryanair flight, this time directly from Marrakech.

We have already decided that we want to return to Marrakech within the next twelve months, possibly as soon as end of this year. The city has put us under its spell, we’re hooked.

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